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Americans’ Trust in Media Declines For Third Consecutive Year, Differs Along Party Lines, Reports Knight Foundation

Jericho Casper

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Screenshot of NPR Journalist Lulu Garcia-Navarro from the Knight Foundation webcast

August 6, 2020 — While Americans still value the media’s traditional role in society, a new report found that trust in media has continued to decline over the past two years.

The Knight Foundation, in partnership with Gallup, polled over 20,000 U.S. adults to publish “American Views 2020: Trust, Media, and Democracy,” a report offering new insight into Americans’ evolving relationship with media.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, a journalist at NPR, joined Sam Gill, senior vice president of the Knight Foundation, in a conversation on Wednesday to address the decline in trust of journalism.

“Information is coming at us all the time,” Garcia-Navarro said, adding that there is often “little understanding where it’s coming from and who is providing it.”

Garcia-Navarro argued that there were legitimate reasons for Americans to feel mistrust, and suggested that President Donald Trump’s continual accusations of ‘fake news’ make more of an impression on people than they may believe.

Trump’s framing of the media as an entity that is somehow against the government and the people has led to increased distrust, she said.

The consequences of this misinformation are reflected in the report, which found that party affiliation remains the key predictor of Americans’ attitudes towards the news media.

Nearly three-fourths of Republicans have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of the news media, compared to 22 percent of Democrats.

Garcia-Navarro and Gill agreed that funding local journalism plays a key role in rebuilding the trust between American’s and news media, as it encourages political and civic engagement.

Local newspapers, which have traditionally fed the news ecosystem, are currently struggling.

Advertising revenue, which traditionally fueled print media, has moved to digital behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Between 2004 and 2014, newspapers lost $30 billion in print ad revenue, according to a study conducted by the Newspaper Association of America and Pew Research Center.

As a result, newspapers around the country have been downsizing and closing for years.

“There are news deserts all over the country,” Garcia-Navarro said.

One possible solution, Garcia-Navarro continued, could be an oversight program requiring Google and Facebook to devote a portion of their digital ad revenue to funding nationwide local journalism initiatives.

The most important part of being a journalist is “amplifying the voices of real people,” Garcia-Navarro said, noting that she aims to make the public front and center on her radio shows.

“We are of the people and working for the people,” she said.

Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband.

Media Ownership

Pandemic Isn’t Death Knell Of Theaters, Says Lionsgate Vice Chairman

Derek Shumway

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 24, 2021 – Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns said Tuesday he thinks theaters will be packed again once the pandemic ends, speaking at a New America event on the future of entertainment.

Suggesting the pandemic will not impair traditional theaters amid the rise in streaming adoption at home, Burns said the growing portfolio of films to feature in theaters under his studio will ensure traditional movie viewing doesn’t go away.

He noted that Lionsgate is associated with about 20 Tyler Perry movies, which will attract people to theaters. He also said a new program based on the The New York Times’ telling of America’s history with slavery, called 1619, will also draw viewers back.

Burns expressed optimism in a returning moviegoing population and cited that in the past, African Americans made up 5 percent of the movie going population. African Americans also make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. But over the last few years and before the pandemic began, they have made up about 20 percent of the movie going population, he said. This trend is in line with Hispanics, he said, and it gives hope to the entire industry that not even the pandemic can unseat the traditional movie theater.

He said he also hopes the older generation is ready to head back to the theaters, especially as people, young and old, develop pandemic fatigue and especially as vaccines continue rolling out.

Burns turned away doubt about his prediction by pointing to China’s recent New Year’s holiday box office performance the previous weekend, which enjoyed record-breaking box office revenues of $1.206 billion, demonstrating that the country’s film market has recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Media Ownership

News Organizations Must Have a Broad Representation in the Communities They Cover

Derek Shumway

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 9, 2021 – News organizations must have a broad representation in the communities they cover to reflect perspectives that would otherwise be missed, a panel of journalists said at a communications law conference.

It is not enough to simply cover events that involve people of color for diversity’s sake, heard the virtual conference hosted on February 2 by the American Bar Association.  Those covering events should be diverse themselves, and upper management must ensure diversity is being reported, said Johnita Due, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Warner Media News and Sports, who is Black.

Upper management at news organizations needs to already be planning and covering stories about minorities and people of color before major events occur, instead of just following up on stories covering the high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor.

Ensuring journalists know the community they are covering will help empower coverage so critical to informing and, in some cases, reforming laws and policies that often negatively harm minority communities. And diversity, equity, and inclusion needs to come from the top of the organization, with leaders who represent the communities they represent, said Anzio Williams, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at NBC Universal Stations, who is black.

While many stories about diversity exist, it is not always easy to cover them because sometimes people do not believe it is important to cover, said Mireya Villareal, a news correspondent at CBS News.

People too often undervalue their own diversity and wrongfully deem it as unworthy, but their stories do matter, she said. When major stories break that involve diversity, it is still important to have diverse people behind the scenes helping make decisions on what and how to cover such events.

When the Minneapolis Star Tribune was preparing its front page headline the day after George Floyd died, the news organization faced a serious challenge: should the entire photo of Officer Chauvin kneeling on George’s neck be published, or should some of it be cropped? Was it right to partially hide or reveal the entirety of the event?

First, you need to ask yourself if anyone in the community will be injured, or re-traumatized by showing the full photo, said Kyndell Harkness, a photo editor for the Tribune. In the end, her team decided to publish a cropped cut showing only Floyd’s face, and offer in subsequent pages information for readers to go to the news site to watch a full video of the incident.

News organizations are always asking themselves: How can we cover this better? And the answer is having those covering stories be representative of its community, many are saying.

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Media Ownership

Will Minority and Female Ownership Play a Role in Prometheus Radio Media Ownership Case?

Derek Shumway

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January 26, 2021—A panel of legal experts disagreed about whether the Federal Communications Commission considers maintaining minority and female ownership of broadcast stations to be a serious public interest concern, during a Federalist Society webinar on Monday.

On January 19, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the ongoing FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project case, a dispute arising from the FCC’s attempts to deregulate local media ownership.

The case involves whether the FCC adequately considered how its rule changes would affect broadcast media firms owned by women or minorities and questions whether the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals was right to block some of the FCC’s choices on those grounds.

The 3rd Circuit found that although the FCC did “ostensibly” consider this issue, its analysis was “so insubstantial” that it cannot provide a “reliable foundation” for the conclusions the agency drew.

After hearing oral arguments by phone on Tuesday, Supreme Court justices questioned the 3rd Circuit decision that blocked the changes. The appeals court told the agency to study the potential impact the mandate would have on female and minority ownership in the media industry, before implementing changes.

The Federalist Society panelists debated whether a change in media ownership would impact minority ownership of broadcasting stations. Jane Mago, former general counsel to the FCC, said she did not believe that altering media cross ownership rules were going to have a significant impact on minority and female ownership in broadcasting.

Her former colleague, Christopher Wright, former general counsel to the FCC, disagreed, saying that “even Justice Brett Kavanaugh had to understand that consolidations would certainly have an adverse effect on women and minority ownership.”

The effects of a decision in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project have been long-debated

Under the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC set governing rules for broadcast media ownership. The rules were intended to prevent any single entity from owning more than a certain amount of broadcast media, limit consolidation, and promote “competition, diversity, and localism.”

The FCC was tasked with producing reports on broadcast ownership on a regular basis to determine whether such rules promoted the public interest. As with all final actions by the agency, such reports are subject to judicial review by a federal court of appeals.

FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project is a series of cases heard and adjudicated by the 3rd Circuit because an activist group, Prometheus Radio Project, challenged 2002 media ownership rules in that court.

Prometheus argued that the FCC did not adequately consider the effect its rule changes would have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities, among other arguments.

In 2010, the 3rd Circuit revisited the case once again, following changes made by the FCC. The FCC did not complete its 2010 review cycle, known as Prometheus III, prior to the start of the 2014 cycle, which led the 3rd Circuit to instruct the FCC to act on broadcast rules review in 2016.

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